Yet again, death has struck a member of my family — my cousin Amy, at 46.
Death has visited our family all too frequently and all too early. My father died at 45, brother Steve at 59, brother Kevin at 62. We are a family of unfinished stories.
Death leaves its mark when it comes unexpected and early.
- So many unspoken words
- So many unsung songs
- So many unfinished stories
I did not really know Amy. She was 22 years my junior, and when she was born I’d long since left for Chicago. Yet we did share a kinship in blood, personality and spirit.
Amy’s passing has reminded me once again that when a link in a family chain is removed it reverberates across time and space.
We each come into this world with much of our prologue written for us and yet during our lives it’s left for us to write our epilogue. Amy’s passing has reminded me how difficult this can be.
It took me 22 years to make peace with my dad’s death. It was the greatest tragedy of my life, and it nearly killed me at the time. But ironically, over time, much time, it actually came to make me.
Here’s how I wrote the epilogue to that story.
In an earlier post I laid out the circumstances surrounding my dad’s death, the fact that we were at odds with each other, and that before he left for his last business trip I struck my father, knocked him down, and stood over him in grim triumph. He passed away four days later of a heart attack while on his business trip and we never got to reconcile.
The experience left me with much sadness and grief, regret and anger. I was totally alone; I told no one what had happened, but kept it as a horrible secret. I raged inside. How dare God take my father! How cruel! How vengeful! I felt stranded, lost and very alone. My faith dissolved and a fuse was lit in me that burned for the next 22 years.
Like many a good Irishman I tried to drown my sorrow in alcohol — quarts, pints and liters. By the time I sobered up in 1985 I was mostly burned out. Two decades of testing proved the only thing alcohol ever accomplished was making a bad situation worse.
On June 13,1985 I had my last drink.
Over time, in recovery, something began to happen. Faith returned, first imperceptibly slow, then, as I got more time, it grew.
As I pulled the cotton from my ears I began to hear stories much like my own but with far different outcomes. Some had actually found a path through their misery. Most of all I heard others daring to share their secrets, secrets just as gigantic as mine.
I watched ~ I listened ~ I came to believe.
Such is the power of a shared secret.
In the autumn of 1985 I attended an AA meeting on the topic of unfinished business. An older man with years of sobriety shared the story of how he had gotten into a fight with his father just before his dad shipped off to the South Pacific during the Second World War. He recounted how he’d knocked him cold. A month later news arrived that his dad had been killed in action.
He recounted how he’d spent the next 25 years drinking over his regret, a story so very similar to my own. Then he shared some wisdom he received from his sponsor that had helped him to resolve the unresolvable.
There are some conversations you just don’t get to have in life, even though they are the conversations you most want to have. But the truth is that all you’d like to say can be said, just not by you. God can do for you what you can’t do for yourself.
Go ahead and write a letter to your father, a detailed letter telling him everything that’s on your mind and in your heart. Don’t leave anything out. Say all that you’ve ever wanted to say. Take the letter, go to your father’s gravesite or a place that was important to him, then recite the following prayer.
“God, I have something to say to my dad that I’m not able to say to him directly so I’m asking you to say it for me. I’ve written it all down here. I trust that you’ll speak this for me and I now commend this message to you.”
You can rest assured the message will be delivered; God will do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
What he said made sense to me. I went home and wrote my dad a letter, drove to Holyrood Cemetery, found Dad’s gravestone, read my letter, and prayed my prayer.
As I drove away I felt a lightness of spirit and joy in my heart. After 22 years my dad was my dad again, I felt his love, and wherever he was he must have felt mine.
A memory mended, an epilogue written.
Just a thought…
Copyright 2017 to Patrick J. Moriarty. All rights reserved.
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